Nov 02, 2006

Ogoni: UN team: No Going Back on Clean-up

The UN Regional Director said the visiting technical team of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will not compromise anything in ensuring that the clean up was of international standard.

The United Nations Regional Director in charge of Africa, Dr Sekou Toure, says the visiting technical team of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) saddled with the responsibility of cleaning up Ogoniland will not compromise anything in ensuring that the clean up was of international standard.

Dr Toure, who is leading the UNEP team, that is touring oil spill sites in Ogoniland, said this at a stakeholders meeting with Ogoni people at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Port Harcourt.

He said the technical team was not prepared to do a shoddy job in Ogoniland, “or come to play a stooge here”, because the UN agency was duty-bound to support the course of development in all parts of Africa, as well as maintain the global credibility of the United Nations.

“We have the capacity to do the work; besides it should be noted that we are not a political arm of the United Nations and therefore we make it clear that our visit to Ogoniland has no political connotations”, the leader of delegation said and enjoined the Ogoni people to accept and cooperate with the team throughout the assignment which he described as a difficult job.

Also speaking, the Minister of Environment, Chief Helen Esuene underlined the commitment of the Federal Government to the clean-up exercise, noting that a team from the Federal Ministry of Environment will accompany the UN Team throughout the duration of their visit to Ogoniland.

She assured that UNEP has the capacity to do a thorough job in Ogonilarid since they were not new comers to the job, and called for accommodating spirit and cooperation from the Ogoni people to make the process a success.

“The team is here to restore your land to what it used to be and reduce cases of environmental degradation in the area”, the Minister said.

In his contribution, the Presidential Facilitator on Ogoni, Rev Fr Matthew Hassan Kukah said the clean-up was a government initiative, carried out for the health of Ogoni people, and it is not with the intention to return Shell Petroleum Development Company to the area.

After the clean-up, he noted, it will be left for Ogonis to decide what they want, and cautioned against incidence of rumour mongering that would set the people further back.

According to him, “Ogonis cried to the United Nations to come to their aid, now the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has come”, and they should be given the cooperation to carryout their work.

Earlier, the State Governor, Dr Peter Odili had thanked the Minister of Environment, Chief Helen Esuene, the UNEP team and the stakeholders in Ogoni, and the Presidential Facilitator for resolving to work harmoniously for the exercise.

The Governor who called for a minute silence in honour of those who lost their lives in Sunday’s fatal plane crash, urged the Ogonis to see the opportunity of the clean-up as a step in the right direction.

Responding on behalf of Ogonis, the President of the Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers of Ogoni, King Godwin Gininwa, said there was no going back on the issue of clean-up of Ogoni, sayng “Ogonis wanted UN assistance in our plight, and now that UN has come, nobody can stop the process of clean- up”.

In the words of Marvin Yobana, Ogoni youth leader, “we are totally in support of the UN delegation, and no body will stop the process”